By Sen. Brian Langley
Restaurants and eateries in general are gathering grounds for good food and conversation. And because I serve in the state Senate, the conversation often turns to politics. As of late, the topic has been tax reform.
Over the course of the summer, when I went out into my dining room to greet my customers and check on their experience, the conversation always turned to politics. Over the past few years, the topics always centered on Maine, but now national politics take center stage. Very many of my customers are lifelong Democrats from Maine and all over the country. And to a person, they love Susan Collins. Just a few weeks ago, folks from here and away were extolling how much they loved Collins. When I asked why, they always said because she votes “right.” When I dug a bit further and asked what that means, the answer was always the same: She votes against her party. Period.
I have taken to asking each party that extols the her virtues to tell me “Who is the Susan Collins of the Democratic Party?” The table goes quiet. Again I ask, “Who on your side of the aisle votes right and stands up against your party?” The answer is honest, and I appreciate honesty. “We don’t want our people to vote against our party.”
Most times there is no name that pops up as to who is the Collins of the Democratic Party. The last time I asked, they took to their phones and started Googling to find names. There is a bit of a sheepish look when I continue on to say that Collins does not stand up against her party, she stands up for what she thinks is good public policy regardless of which side of the aisle proposed or sponsored the legislation. She does her homework like no other. She drills down, way beyond the sound bites, to understand the complexities of the policy, and then casts her vote accordingly. When that vote is in line with the majority of her party, folks criticize her for caving in and voting along party lines. When she votes against the way the majority of her Republican colleagues voted, she is extolled for being bipartisan. I find it disingenuous and a bit insulting to categorize her integrity only on the basis of voting against her party.
Where are her counterparts on the other side? Who can you point to who does the same thing? Why is it not recognized and complimented that Collins does her homework, clearly understands the issue and votes in the best interest of the state of Maine and the United States of America? That is the Collins I know. I don’t keep track of how many times she votes with her party or not; I try to understand the issue and understand her reasoning for voting the way she does. This should be the rule and not the exception in Washington.
Brian Langley is the chef and owner at the Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth and state senator for District No. 7, Hancock County.